In my earlier post I wrote about the need to develop and roll out rapid testing for the COVID-19 virus.
It turns out there already is a rapid test, it just hasn’t been approved and it is therefore not being used.
Why hasn’t the paper-based COVID test been approved?
It turns out Health Canada has not approved the paper-based COVID test due to their relatively low sensitivity, which, according to the authors an article titled “Rapid paper -strip tests could help control COVID-19 this fall” is based on an outdated understanding of how COVID-19 is transmitted.
The article highlights the work of Dr. Michael Mina an infectious disease epidemiologist at he Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and a core member of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. He is additionally an Assistant Professor in Immunology and Infectious Diseases at HSPH and Associate Medical Director in Clinical Microbiology (molecular diagnostics) in the Department of Pathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Mina was interviewed on August 5th, 2020 by Medcram (see below) on his vision of how to move forward.
At the core of what Dr. Mina is talking about is the need to make the COVID-19 virus visible so that we can isolate those who have it and are capable of infecting others.
Cheap, regular testing is the answer.
The reasons that cheap paper-strip testing available are not available are regulatory, not technical.
And since the tests are not approved, no one will manufacture them.
Current COVID-19 testing is too expensive, takes too long, and is much more sensitive than it needs to be
Dr. Mina likens the job to a fire brigade trying to put out every single house fire. If that’s the goal, “you don’t want to be distracted every time someone lights a match – you don’t want to send a fire truck just because someone lights a candle in their home”
The goal then is to focus on cases where the person is actively shedding the virus at levels that can infect others. Not at minuscule levels that won’t affect other people. Levels that the expensive testing we are now using are capable of.
Paper-based testing, costing as little as $1 per test could, according to Dr. Mina reduce transmission 90-95% in the US, in a few weeks, if everyone could be tested tomorrow.
According to Dr. Mina, the government should immediately put $1 billion dollars into really pushing the development of these paper-based COVID-19 tests, so that they can be printed in the millions, which they can be, and get packages of 50 in everyone’s hands next month.
A billion dollars is a drop he bucket compared to the enormous amounts being spent by governments around the world, on propping up the economy, and medical care for those with COVID.
Innovative, out of the box thinking like that of Dr. Mina, is what we need now.
I encourage you to share this page share a link – and promote Dr. Mina’s innovative approach to COVID-19 testing.
3M, with MIT are also working on paper-based COVID testing
What are we waiting for?
Canada needs to jump on this!